PMP study takes several weeks or even a few months.
This makes it prone to challenges such as assignment of an additional project, lack of time to study harder concepts, or even those moments of low confidence.
Exactly what happened to Brijesh.
And he waded his way through all the challenges with some smart work, mainly around planning his study.
He passed PMP last week with a perfect ‘Above Target’ score.
In this week’s PMP Lessons Learned article, he shares his exact study blueprint.
Brijesh has a Master’s degree in Computer Applications and a postgraduate diploma in Business Administration in Finance. He works for a UK-based investment bank as a Program Manager, managing IT deliveries.
Brijesh is an avid reader and also enjoys listening to audiobooks. To relax, he runs twice a day, whether rain or shine!
The biggest takeaway for me from this interview – his way of studying for the PMP exam naturally makes you a better project manager. That’s the brilliance of his ‘mindset shift’ approach!
Don’t miss it for anything.
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What made you take up PMP?
I am a Certified Scrum Master. For the last few years, I have been managing large IT projects.
There were several challenges that a project manager faces in day-to-day life, but struggles to find the right solutions.
Many PMs react to situations rather than proactively approaching the problems.
I wanted to take a methodical and structured approach while managing large/complex projects, rather than going for the trial-by-fire approach.
I realized that PMP preparation/certification would help me to drive these complex projects better. For this reason, I did not consider any other certification than PMP.
Now that you are certified, how do you see PMP helping you?
I think I started realizing several benefits while I was preparing for the PMP exam itself!
You mentioned once on a LinkedIn post that “It’s not about the PMP knowledge, but the journey which makes you a better PM”.
This is exactly what I experienced during my preparation.
My biggest challenge at work was to address everyday project execution challenges, such as –
- how to manage unreasonable customer expectations
- to identify and manage project risks better
- how to manage scope creep
I wanted to get a better hold on the constraints under which a project is executed – especially the iron triangle – Time, Cost, and Scope. I feel more confident in these areas now.
Stakeholder management is another big area for me.
I think PMP knowledge helps me now to better present the problem statements and to negotiate with stakeholders – such as to explain why something can’t be delivered, to help businesses to better prioritize using MoSCoW or other methods, and emphasize business value.
PMP knowledge has equipped me to negotiate such that it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
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What is the core characteristic a PMP aspirant should have to prepare well?
I think the PMP is more of a mindset game.
Throughout the study, you must assume yourself as PM in situations where the concepts you are studying can go wrong.
That is, if you are studying the risk identification process, imagine what can go wrong while doing this, and what you would do.
This study approach not only prepares you for the exam (situational questions, remember?), it also gives you a plan of action while managing projects.
Which study resources did you use?
I used just what was needed for preparing efficiently, without overwhelm.
- Joseph Philip PMP prep course for the 35 contact hour certification. It covers the agile and hybrid parts as well.
- Rita Mulcahy book for any topic which I was not clear about, or where I was scoring less in mock exams.
- Agile Practice Guide provided by PMI.
- I referred to PMBOK for very selective topics and did not read the full book (primer here).
How did you approach your exam?
I studied every day.
No matter how busy I was, I made sure to read my notes every morning and before going to bed.
When you start following the points mentioned below, you would have an idea of which topics are more important, and what you need to understand better.
The most important thing to remember is not to cram things, but to apply concepts.
By ‘applying concepts’ I mean imagining yourself as a Project Manager under a situation.
Below is what I did for my preparation:
- First I completed the Udemy course (Joseph Philip),
- Then I started solving full-length mock exams.
- In parallel, I began going over YouTube videos
- I referred to study advice and tips shared by Shiv (in emails and on LinkedIn) and read how other aspirants prepared for it. This was a big help and motivation for me to complete the exam.
I’d like to highlight a point on simulator-based mock tests, here.
Initially, I scored pretty low. And with practice, I began hitting 70%-80%.
Expect similar results.
PMP exam is more than just learning concepts and solving questions. That approach would not work.
You will know what the real exam feels like by only taking mock tests. Plus, you will learn how to manage those 4 hours to answer questions without feeling panic. Lastly, you will get a ‘hang of’ the exam as you take more of them. This helps you overcome exam anxiety.
Once you start scoring 70%-80%, you are ready.
Can you talk about any issues/blockers you faced along the way?
I faced my biggest challenge when a new project arrived, and I started to get occupied again.
I found it difficult to study for 2-3 hours every day. That’s when I shifted to notes and started focusing on key concepts rather than just reading everything.
Another challenge was: at times it’s difficult to understand a topic. For example, how would you calculate EV in complex questions or to answer Project life cycle questions – Agile versus Hybrid.
I searched for these topics on YouTube and found some very good examples. That helped me.
There was a time I began losing confidence after scoring low in mock exams.
The PMP journey was indeed very long and one of the difficult ones I had as compared to other exam preparation.
I started justifying myself that this is a tough exam and also started convincing my family that it was fine if I fail the exam. That’s when my wife encouraged me to stay positive and brought me back on track.
I think family plays a big role in this journey. There are times when we are low on morale. Speak to their friends and family and share how you are feeling. This really helps. It doesn’t prove that you are weak.
Thank you for being part of the PMExamSmartNotes PMP student community! How did it help in your exam preparation?
The emails and journey shared by Shiv were really motivating.
Whenever there was a thought to quit preparation, I was going back to read how other students prepared and what motivated them.
This really helped me.
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Did you study during the week before the exam?
Just one week before the exam, I started taking a lot of mock exams.
I was carefully going through the explanations for correct and incorrect answers.
It was my way of getting myself comfortable for the 4-hour long exam through these mock exams.
Referring to Rita Mulcahy’s book for topics where I was answering incorrectly helped me better cover my gaps.
How was your exam experience?
If I said I wasn’t anxious on exam day, it would be a lie.
But I had to control the anxiety. I would think about the positives of being PMP certified. I talked to myself and reassured myself that I am prepared for the exam. “This wouldn’t be the end of the world if the result is not favorable”, I told myself to calm my nerves.
I opted to take the exam from a test center to avoid any distractions at home.
The staff was very supportive and explained to me in detail how I should take the exam, the duration of the exam etc.
One important thing is the exam is divided into 3 sections (one for each topic under ECO, it appeared).
Each section has 60 questions and the total duration of the exam is approx. 230 minutes. I divided my sections into 75 mins, 75 mins, and 80 mins respectively.
All questions are situational. There was not a single question related to definition/theory.
Did you opt for the breaks?
I took the 10-mins breaks in between to get some water and relax.
I would advise even if you don’t feel tired, these breaks should still be taken to refresh your brain.
One caution – the exam clock on the screen is a reverse clock.
So, it becomes difficult to understand when 75 mins have passed. Hence, I calculated (230 minus 75 minus 75 minus 80) in minutes and wrote that on a sheet so that I know exactly when I should be finishing each section.
It appears PMI has recently begun introducing questions from the PMBOK 7. Did you come across such questions?
Also, my exam did not have any numerical questions, not a single one!
I think PMBOK6 (no need to read the full book – not easy to follow), Udemy course, and Rita Mulcahy are more than sufficient.
I would highly recommend reading the full Agile Practice Guide.
This is really important for the exam, considering 50% of the questions I got were based on Agile and Hybrid.
Would you like to share any specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies for those preparing for their PMP exam?
- Complete the first round of your course or book quickly – target to finish in 10-15 days max.
- Do attempt all quizzes/exams at the end of each section. This will tell you which concepts need a relook.
- During my study, I took notes on all topics which I was not very clear about. Try making your own notes, at least for difficult concepts.
- Book the exam date as soon as the training/course is complete. It increases your focus.
- Time-box your preparation (in weeks or months) and execute it like a project.
- Restrict yourself to limited resources – for example, if you have taken classes – stick to the notes and recordings and do not refer to too many books, etc. to avoid spending a long time in preparation.
- All the questions were situational. So, make sure you have understood the concepts by taking mock exams and understanding why/where you are making mistakes.
All the best!